Musical Crossroads book cover with a dress, trunk, and guitar.
Dwandalyn R. Reece, with contributions from Timothy Anne Burnside, Hannah Grantham, Tuliza Fleming, Steven W. Lewis, Vanessa L. Moorer, Kelly Elaine Navies, Douglas Remley, Deborah Tulani Salahu-Din, Kevin M. Strait, Angela Tate and Eric Lewis Williams
Dwandalyn R. Reece

“Black music has been going on forever: longer than me, longer than you, longer than most people know. But some people know. This book, managed by a museum and powered by love, looks at African American music over the centuries and through the people, instruments, and objects that made it happen. There is no future without the past.”
—Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, drummer, DJ, producer, New York Times best-selling author, and member of The Roots 

Music is the great equalizer around the world. No matter where it originates or what form it takes, it has played a crucial role in shaping the human experience and preserving the history of that experience for centuries. African American music originated out of a heritage shaped by the Transatlantic Slave Trade and forced enslavement. The music born out of this shared identity was a means of survival, a treatise on the struggle for freedom, and an agent of social change; it generated a vast array of musical styles and performance traditions that have defined American music.

Drawing upon objects in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s permanent collection and featuring many of the objects on display in the award-winning exhibition of the same name, Musical Crossroads explores how objects expand our understanding of the culture of African American music-making and the foundation it has built in the United States and around the world. 

Five thematic chapters by Dwandalyn R. Reece are accompanied by shorter features written by museum staff. The book is illustrated with images of over 200 objects from the Museum’s collection. These include the obvious—Charlie Parker’s saxophone, Whitney Houston’s Soul Train Award, and Marian Anderson’s outfit from her 1939 Lincoln Memorial concert—and the less obvious—Little Richard’s Bible, a poem by James Baldwin, Flavor Flav’s clock, and Hall Johnson’s camera—as well as a wealth of additional items that trace the history of African American music and along with it, the history of the United States


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